Disclaimer: First off no money was made from this story by the author or the owner, so you shouldn't be making any money off it either. Kencyrath, Perimal Darkling, Torisen Knorth, and Burr are all characters and concepts owned by PC Hodgell and are copyrighted material. ODB Corporation, Menoko, Fazia, and So-good-gum are all my characters/concepts and you bet the first three are copyrighted material. (But don't think that if you steal my gum I won't break your leg!) In no way are these characters and concepts interrelated with one another outside of this story. No you will never see high tech in a true Hodgell book on Jame and vice versa you will never see any walking dead in a true Meko story.

Author's Note: This is probably only most amusing to friends that have read my work and Hodgell's. The following main character is an Inspector for a futuristic earth government. Quite a bit has changed on Earth, lots of tech has evolved, including weapons, but old style firearms are still used on long stake outs (sonic and emp weapons need semi-frequent recharging). 'Sensitives' are more perceptive, psychic individuals; they have a tendency to pick up on all types of things including sickness, though only in this story does that include PD taint.


Infectious Substance

By: Jas Rainwater

Send your praises to jazrainwater@hotmail.com


"Section Lead 1, are you in position? Over," Menoko's headset squawked. Menoko glanced at her three black-clad heavily armed troopers, already in position around the compound's back entrance. The darkened, seemingly abandoned, compound was a modified ranch, owned by the ODB inc. Intelligence indicated the labs they needed to secure, were under them one floor. Menoko's jaw clenched as she felt the familiar intuitive tingle run down her spine. Intelligence is wrong, she thought, this place is going to be too big for the six teams to cover.

"Meko, copy damn it," the headset called back in Roger's frustrated voice.

Menoko recognized the fear in is voice; he was nearly to the point of bugging out. She silently pulled her 9mm from its holster. Damn it, there wasn't really a choice here, she told herself. If anything gets out of this lab. She shook her head to clear the thought. She responded to the com-set, "Section Lead 1, in position. Moving now, over."

Menoko watched as two of her team pulled back from the door, signaling they had opened it. Ready or not, she kicked open the door and rolled in. She came up into a crouch, back to a wall, 9mm ready. The room was empty; no sound other than her team moving in. The team moved through three more deserted dark rooms, before reaching a thick secure door. She glanced at her bio contamination display, it flickered and pulsed, like it picked something up, but was unable to lock before going quiet.

Menoko nodded and Staton broke formation moving to the door. She watched in tense amazement as he quickly keyed through its electronic security. He rolled out of the way as the door slid open, revealing a set of stainless steel stairs. She waved the big guns through first, pausing for Staton to rearm and follow her down.

The bottom of the stair fed out into a sterile empty halogen lit hallway. The few doors that lined the corridor were the heavy steel and glass of high threat containment. Menoko signaled for the two branching corridors to be check, already knowing that they should be empty. She glanced in the first window, closest to the stair. Inside, an empty biomedical table centerpieced the small lab. She looked at Staton and nodded.

She moved down to the next window, another empty lab, filled with cryo-tubes. She paused; three of the cryo-chambers were large enough to store a full-grown human being. Her stomach tightened as her pulled a red sticker from her belt pouch at her waist. She stared numbly at its black lettering 'high threat' as she pasted it to the door.

She glanced back to Staton's last position, finding him already inside with the door auto-closing behind him. She signaled the remaining two into position behind her and made quick inspection of the right corridor and its contents. All the rooms were labs, two of which she marked with red stickers. Menoko noted that her two teammates appeared less tense and scowled at them.

The three of them doubled back to the primary hallway they had entered via the stairs. Menoko peered into the first lab; Staton was still hacking into the lab's computer system. Down the left hallway she went, her two troopers shadowing her. The remaining lab rooms were bare, only stainless steel tables and a computer terminal in each. At the end of the left hallway was another heavy door, no windows set in it.

Menoko stared at the door. The electronic security keypad was set next to an override lever, and the door was made out of titanium instead of steal. Her eyes moved back to the override lever. Whatever was behind it, they wanted a failsafe against it. She pulled her second gun and ordered, "Tell Staton. It looks like intelligence wasn't accurate. We're going in."

She eyed the door with growing apprehension. The remaining trooper, Loric, was checking his equipment. Menoko's mouth twitched into an ironic grin. Loric was the team's newbie. He was the byproduct of the government's best military training and had been assigned to them at the behest of the Chief of Defense. She wondered if all that rigid government discipline would give his mind the freedom to cope with what he was about to witness, or if it would just blindly carry him through.

Footsteps, rather than his voice, informed her the third trooper, Reynolds, had returned unaccompanied. "North, Staton reports that he's hit the 'mother load', but he needs more time to upload the data," Reynolds informed her. "I already informed ops, they are sending section 2 to cover him. Chief thinks we should wait until they arrive."

"Yeah, and risk having to have two from another team accompany us. No thanks, things are messy enough," Menoko North retorted. "If we need the Sensitive, we'll send for her, but we never do."

Menoko nodded to Loric. Loric in turn pulled the override lever up. Alarm lights painted the hallway in red as the door started to slide up. All three of them kept guns leveled at the door as it fully opened to reveal a dark stone hallway.

Reynolds took point, as the three moved in. The hallway abruptly ended in a curved stone stairway. The stonework, granite cut blocks fleck with gold and veined with what appeared to be green copper, was oddly beautiful and wholly out of place. The three stealthily made their way down the steps, bottoming out into a dark shadow filled hallway, lined with window barred doors on either side.

Loric peeked into the first window and recoiled with a hiss. He threw Menoko a fearful look as he stepped away for the door. Menoko glanced at all of the doors, noting the extra heavy bar on the outside of each one. The extra barriers were all made of the same stainless steel that composed much of the lab above. She moved close to the door to take a look.

On the other side of the window was a small cell, in its center, the corpse of a little girl. Menoko's heart lurched as the child's dead face looked up at her. She watched as the child, not more than seven, rose to its feet. An eerie thin voice called, "I'm alone and hungry. Feed me."

"That's done it," Reynolds stated bitterly pulling Menoko from the barred cell window. All around them movement echoed in the cells. Loric bit back a partial cry of surprise.

Menoko holstered her 9mm and reached for the exotic she had slung over a shoulder. She ignited the flame-thrower, ignoring the hollow wails that rose at the hiss of the flame. Intelligence assholes, she thought bitterly, as she brought the weapon to bear on the child's cell. "You can't," Loric protested pushing her arm away. "She's just a little girl."

In a hardened voice, Menoko heard herself respond, "You've seen the ODB files, experiments are irretrievable once expired. She's already dead. Move!"

Loric followed her order, but only due to disciplined training not because he agreed. Menoko torched the cell, blocking the protesting cries of its prisoner out of her mind. "Brought to you in part by the makers of So-good-gum," she muttered as she decontaminated the rest of the cells and their occupants in the same fashion. Menoko order to Loric, "Get the Sens from section 2, now."

"That keeps him outta the way for the moment anyways," Reynolds snickered. Once Loric had retreated up the steps she nodded to Reynolds. They exited the far end of the hallway each careful to cover the other's movement. They had gotten only partially down the hallway when the putrid stench of decay hit them. They shook their heads at one another and steeled as they continued on. The hallway dead-ended in a dark chasm.

The chasm seemed to encompass a cavern in its center an island of rock, covered by the same stonework creating a platform. On the platform was a figure, its back to them. The figure seemed to rock slightly. Between the obscene darkness and the figures own black dress nothing more could be made out. Menoko and Reynolds exchange bewildered glances.

"Hello?" Menoko called out a wary greeting. The figure stopped rocking and reached to its waist. Menoko killed the flame-thrower as Reynolds brought his assault rifle to bear on the figure. Menoko once again shouldered the flame-thrower, feeling naked without its protection. She pulled the grapple gun from her belt loop and aimed it at the island's platform.

"You sure that's wise?" Reynolds asked nervously.

"No, but I'm not killing anything that I can't confirm already dead ...or close to it," she replied firmly and fired the gun. The grapple whizzed to the platform and landed with a sick ripping sound, as if it had embedded into tissue rather than stone. She affixed the other end to a spike she swiftly imbedded to the wall above her shoulder. She squinted; the figure was on its feet and facing them, its features were indistinct in the damnable darkness. She called to it, "You can cross using the line."

The figure didn't respond or even acknowledge her offer. Menoko glanced down into the chasm; she sensed movement in its shadowy depths. She holstered her last weapon, her lucky .45, and pulled out two light sticks. She cracked them and shook them into a milky white glow. She chucked the first one onto the island, its odd glow penetrating only a fraction of the gloom. Still she could now identify the figure was a man, dressed in strange black garb his hand on what appeared to be a sword sheath. Menoko stared at him in disbelief before glancing at Reynolds for confirmation.

"Now, I have seen it all," Reynolds stated meeting her eyes. He shifted his eyes quickly back to the man on the island. The man seemed to stare incredulously at the light stick; his silver-grey eyes flicking up to its match on the other side of the chasm.

Menoko fell back a step under his cool gaze. Another intuitive prickle teased at her nerves, leaving her no sense of danger or otherwise. She motioned him to cross with the hand that still held the milky white light stick. His eyes glinted warily a moment and his hand invited her to cross in a similar fashion as he fell into a fighter's crouch.

Footsteps in the corridor behind her, Menoko whirled around, pulling out her .45. She quickly lowered it, as she recognized Loric and Fazia Molliki, the sensitive. Menoko looked Fazia over before stating, "We've got work for you, Molliki."

"I knew you'd be the one to find something, North," Fazia informed her stoically.

Menoko grimaced at the tasteless 'Sens' joke.

Fazia gasped in pain as she stepped to the edge of the chasm. Through gritted teeth she managed, "the pit, horrid infestation."

Menoko glanced down into the chasm again, eyebrows arching. Curiosity getting the best of her, as it so often did, she dropped the glowing light stick down into it. It fell a considerable distance before landing amongst stalagmites. Menoko noted aloud, "Odd, I can see clearly down to it, but it doesn't seem to penetrate the darkness around it."

Menoko clenched her jaw, again sensing movement in the darkness that surrounded the glow- stick. She glanced at Fazia. The sensitive now huddled in a ball, away from the edge of the pit. Fazia's brow glowed with a light sweat. Menoko had never seen a sensitive react so badly from exposure to any of ODB's raided complexes. Menoko holstered her weapon and gently touched Fazia. Menoko urged, "Molliki, I need to know about the man on the island. Does he require ...decontamination?"

Fazia scowled at Menoko's terminology, before turning her baleful gaze on the island. Fazia focused on him for a moment, eyes closing. Menoko gave Reynolds an annoyed glance, ending in an eye roll. Neither of the troopers doubted the usefulness of the Sensitives, over all the Sensitives' had the best record for determining who survived from the contamination. Still the Sensitive organization clearly stood by the theory that contamination was due to a malignant entity, rather than the scientific theory that it was a bio-plague. Menoko wasn't completely convinced of the later, she had seen too much over the last few months, since outbreak had started. The idea that it was some evil entity however was not an option to her atheist ideals.

"He's not entirely here," Fazia stated, shock ringing in her voice. Her eyelids snapping open; eyes wide with fear. "He's not supposed to be here, neither are we. It all goes to hell if he stays here."

Menoko shook her head distastefully at the sensitive's bizarre response. Menoko tested the line warily, snapped her safety onto it, and placed her hands firmly on it. "Right," she stated tersely as she edged out over the pit. Menoko's eyes stated fixed to the darkness below her, aware of the subtly movement below her. This is a defensible position, she thought wryly.

She pulled herself along, until her foot finally touched rock. Giddy joy overwhelmed her as she pulled herself up onto the platform. Menoko brought her breathing under control as she remembered her purpose. The man was eyeing her suspiciously still in a combat stance. She extended a hand warily to him and said, "If you want to escape take my hand."

She straightened herself, as he looked her over, determining her sincerity. The slick substance under her right foot finally registered in her brain. She pulled her foot back and glanced down, under it was a black fluid that seemed to seep from where the grapple had imbedded. "What the hell?" she breathed bending down to investigate. She reached out to touch it when footsteps from the man's direction made her pause. Menoko pulled her lucky piece and brought it to bear on him just as he entered arms reach. She ordered, "Don't move."

He eyed her weapon curiously with a slight amused grin. He had taken her intent seriously if not her weapon. Menoko called over her shoulder, "Thanks for the warning, Reynolds."

Only silence responded.

Menoko bore the man a hard look before daring to look over her shoulder. Behind her she could see the line but not the hallway that contained her team. Fear and disbelief seized her; she turned completely around, forgetting the man. She called again, "Section 1, status."

The only response she got was a jolt of pain through her wrist, forcing her to drop her weapon. She dropped to her knees, as the wristlock, became a full immobilizing arm lock. She glanced back at the man in time to see him kick away her lucky piece. She watched it in horror as it slid across the stonework and off the far side. Menoko couldn't help but cry out, "No!"

"My apologies, lady," the man offered sincerely, his voice thick with an unidentifiable accent. He had a throwing dagger leveled at her. "Now perhaps you can tell me where exactly I am and who exactly you are."

Menoko glared spitefully at him, her green eyes flashing a deep jade. She responded in a harsh tone, "You could have asked that before kicking my favorite piece into that pit."

"Be that as it may, I still require some answers," he replied in a polite but firm tone.

"Lead, North, Menoko. You are under a secret ODB lab complex, one of few dozen that the government just recently discovered. I'm here on a decom mission," she responded flatly.

He clearly hadn't comprehended what she had told him. He prodded further, "ODB lab?"

"The ODB Corporation," she responded and further dismayed by his apparent ignorance. "You have heard of the One Divine Being Corporation, haven't you?" He still looked lost. "They are responsible for creating and introducing an unknown agent. The agent reported by the news, the one responsible for the ...living dead, as they like to refer to them."

If nothing else made sense to him this last line did. He gave her a cold look and asked, "What were you here to do about it?"

His change in demeanor caught her off guard. Menoko responded solemnly, "Retrieve infection and experiment documentation, quarantine the agent if identifiable, and decontaminate the facilities."

"Infection? Experiment?" he asked numbly.

"ODB has been purposely exposing animals and people to the contaminant. Their scientists and directors believe that the agent is the essence of the One Divine Being. They think they are moving mankind towards a closer relationship with God, by infecting us with ...it. No one had any idea until a few people leaked it, by then it was too late, the first outbreaks had occurred. We've contained it so far..." Menoko stopped herself from saying anything more.

"Who are you?" he asked flatly.

"Part of a government search and destroy team. You may refer to me as North" she replied. Menoko eyed him skeptically and added, "The only concern right now, however, is who are you? Conan?"

He regarded her critically before responding, "Not Coman, but Knorth."

Menoko wasn't sure which boggled her more the fact that he missed her joke or that his name so closely matched her own. He released her arm, and backed slowly away from her, dagger still displayed. He informed her, "I can't stay here, my people need me. I accept your help."

Menoko watched him apprehensively. He didn't show any signs of contamination, but his odd speech, dress, and demeanor didn't endear him to her. She wasn't looking forward to taking him back across the line. She glanced back at the slick of black ooze. She was about to take a sample of it when she heard a protest.

"Don't," Knorth ordered. "You don't want to touch it if you can help it."

Menoko glanced up at him surprised to find his concern genuine. She informed him, "I wasn't planning on it. I'm just getting a sample for diagnosis, it will be contained."

"You can't contain it with that," he returned, indicating the vial she had in her hand. "I'll explain later, we should go."

Menoko stood up and in a peeved tone, "Yes, we should."


Menoko snapped his now secured safety belt onto the line and anchored his belt to hers. He bestowed an amused expression on her that she acknowledged with a mordacious roll of her eyes. She leaned out, hands securely gripping the line. She knew she was being rude, but couldn't resist. His cool demeanor and handsome face distracted her far more than she cared to admit. A distraction that might get them killed as easily has it had already lost her good luck charm. She glanced down into the pit and asked rhetorically, "Ready?"

They moved back across the pit in silence. Menoko only look up when the spot of milky white light below alluded to her position. She could now see hallway and her team. Fazia was standing again, her eyes transfixed on the man behind Menoko.

Menoko swung down onto the hallway's stonework. She turned to help Knorth off the line. He once again watched her with a sardonic grin. Menoko wasn't amused, she was sure she had just rescued a lunatic. She analyzed his strange clothing as she unfastened the safety belt. The coat he wore was a soft black velvet with silver trim, it had an almost Kevlar stiffness to its sides. She pulled the belt away convinced the jacket was armor-lined and stepped away from him.

She glanced at Reynolds. "Damn nice of you to warn me. This bastard knocked my lucky into that damn pit," she barked.

Reynolds blanched and responded, "You both disappeared for a moment. Shadows rolled over you both, couldn't see nothing. You didn't respond to our calls then one of those zombies attacked us. Loric got bit."

Menoko was shaken. Loric had been pulled in to replace the last member they had lost from a bite. She looked forlornly at him. Loric was leaning heavily against the wall; a veil of perspiration covered his forehead. He offered his injured arm to her, dutifully. Menoko noted the human teeth marks, highlighted with an oily black hew.

"Well troop, let's pull back," she ordered igniting the flame-thrower once again. "I'll take point, Knorth, Molliki, and Loric behind me. Reynolds bring up the rear."

Menoko flipped the high intensity beam light mounted atop the thrower on and stepped back down the hallway.

"We can't take him out," Fazia Molliki warned. "He isn't supposed to be here."

Menoko glanced over her shoulder at Fazia. Great all we need to top the night off is a Sens with a feeling, she thought. She said exasperated, "You said that already. You also said we aren't supposed to be here. Care to inform me exactly what you're getting at?"

Fazia fidgeted a moment, before blithely offering, "He is an opposing force to the entity just like you, but he isn't from our world. In fact, I'd almost say that the two of you were related, but of course that would be impossible. Only the sensitive have off world family ties. Anyways, He needs to stay on his world, but we can't leave him here. We have to get him back."

Menoko stared nonplussed at Fazia. Entity, our world, words that rang in Menoko's mind. The Sensitives were nuts, she told herself ruefully. Menoko shook her head saying, "I don't believe this. First we find someone that isn't infected and is obviously being held in the most unusual cell, dressed," she paused to wave a hand at Knorth, "and now you are going to tell me that this guy is from another planet?"

Fazia shrunk away from Menoko's vehement glare. Fazia squeaked, "I know it's hard for you to comprehend-"

"Hard?" Menoko roared incredulous. "If he's from another planet why is he speaking English? Knorth say something."

Silver-grey eyes gazed at her a moment. He finally complied, "What is English?"

Menoko frowned at him and then noted the others' baffled looks. Menoko snapped at Fazia, "Well?"

Fazia disturbed, retorted, "That wasn't English. I don't know what it was."

Menoko glared at the Sens, before noting Loric and Reynolds agreed with Fazia. Menoko dry mouthed asked, "Am I the only one that understands him?"

Fazia's eyes widened. Loric and Reynolds stared back at her in disbelief. Knorth watched her with a wry grin pasted to his lips.

"Have you been tested?" Fazia questioned.

Menoko glowered at Fazia and returned, "I'm an atheist."

Fazia gaped at Menoko, dumbfounded. Fazia finally stammered, "B-but, that doesn't mean you can't be sensitive to cosmic forces. You must be a latent, the most sensitive usually are."

Reynolds gave a disgusted snort. "This is enlightening and all, but we're standing in unsecured facility with an injury. We need to evac Loric, now," he cut in with a curt tone.

Menoko nodded and proceeded down the hall. She double-checked the intersection they had previously passed and wave them through it. They pulled back to the spiral stair. Menoko ordered, "Okay Reynolds get Loric to Section 2, and let them evacuate him. Staton should be almost done, have him return with you, and we'll finish decom. Be quick, the flame-thrower's tank is already a quarter empty. Sens you have until he returns to convince me you're not crazy." Fazia waited for Loric and Reynolds to withdraw up the stair before speaking, "Everyone (scientists, sensitives, and religious leaders) theorized the containment was alien. All evidence points to an evolution off-world, right?"

Menoko had seen all the documented evidence, which presented such theories. She nodded begrudgingly.

"That's because it is. The universal structure is a complex, tree like system. Universe after universe sits basically on top of one another some worlds are linked directly to other universes. He's from one such world, and that world is in turn linked to ours. This," she paused to indicate the stonework around them, "is a breech. A breech to another world and through it the contaminate flows. There must be another breech here, somewhere to his world.

"I mean this is obviously not something that should be attached to a multi-million dollar lab complex, but it is. Worse is this entire place is contaminated," Fazia stopped to dig her boot heel into the floor. She pulled her foot away to reveal that the stonework oozed black from her touch. "It's bleeding, the stones are bleeding. How corrupt is that?"

Menoko stared in horror, baffled by the evident truth. She could handle a plague, she could even conceive of an alien invasion. This however defied logic; there wasn't any bacterium or virus that could infect both organic and inorganic matter. In a shaky voice, she loathed to hear, she stammered, "H-how is th-that possible?"

"It shouldn't be possible, but it is. Now you know why we, Sens, label it an entity," Fazia stated firmly. "That and because It in some why exists similar to you and I, but with no definable consciousness."

Menoko pushed the Sensitive aside and brought some flame to bear on the bleeding stonework. She stepped back as the ooze bubbled and the stone shifted beneath her. The hallway seemed to tremble slightly, and she killed the flame. Incredulously the ooze had burned away leaving a cauterized blackened stone. She backed away from it, and jumped as she bumped into Knorth.

He lightly placed his hands on her shoulders and said, "You can't kill it with that. You can only purify tainted flesh with fire. It moves animate and inanimate, living and dead closer together in nature into a shadowy realm. That is Perimal Darkling's nature."

Menoko shrugged his hands off and pulled away from him. "I take it you understand what they're saying," she said to him.

"No, just you and her," he replied with a glance to Fazia.

Menoko looked at the Sens and asked, "How do we close the breech?"

"Section 2 discovered what appears to be an arcane power focus on the first floor, approximately above that Titanium door," Fazia responded seriously, ignoring Menoko's dubious look. "If we destroy it at approximately the same time he destroys the one on his world, they should close."

"You don't sound convinced," Menoko stated ruefully.

"I'm not," Fazia responded blatantly. "I'm just going off the images in his head and my own Sense."

"Lovely, what does this 'focus' on his side look like?"

"A temple," Fazia answered. "He should do it. If you go with him, you won't be able to return."

Menoko paused a moment, uncomfortable with why she knew the Sensitive was telling the truth. She asked, "Why is it he needs to return?"

Knorth answered her question, "I am the leader of my people. The Kencyrath has fought against the Devourer of Worlds, Perimal Darkling, for 30 millennia." "Uh..yeah, the Kennierath," Menoko responded numbly. The name so closely matched her own ancestral kin name, K'nyrth-Kin'cyrth, though prejudice and conformity had dropped it down to North after many generations.

"Kencyrath," he corrected quietly.

"He is the key to the end of the entity. If he doesn't return to his world, it won't be stopped and it comes to feed on us next," Fazia intoned firmly.

"Next? Its already trying." Menoko snorted.

"It will get worse," Fazia stated flatly.

Menoko appraised the strange man closely for the first time. The lean, oddly dressed, elegant man struck her more as the delicate model type than a leader. She met his silver-grey eyes and noted the resourcefulness in them. Aware of her initial mistake of misjudging him, she nodded in agreement. Menoko instructed, "Fine. We still need to find the doorway back to his world. Hand over your heavy and any incendiaries you have for it. Pretty boy here lost mine."

Knorth bore her a scathing look; apparently her tone conveyed the insult, if not her words.

Fazia confused said, "The team will go with you."

"No they wont," Menoko snapped. "Guidelines list this as a highly infectious area and demand immediate quarantine. Which means when you're done with my first order, we seal the door. I want a triple thick bio-containment field up in front of that sealed titanium door. That should last, but incase the contaminant actually infects the field's power cells, then burn clean the lower levels. We will rebrief and decide again if recon/S&D team should evaluate the facilities. If it is ruled too risky we blow the whole thing up."

Fazia pulled out her .45 and a red-tagged clip turning both over to Menoko. Menoko pocketed the extra clip and holstered the .45, wondering why in hell she was taking a leap of faith. She glanced at Knorth and asked sarcastically, "I don't suppose you can shoot a gun?"

His baffled look confirmed her suspicion. She signaled him to follow her as she moved back down the hallway away from the stairs. She edged the flaming nose of the thrower out in front of her as she checked the intersection. She was surprised at how well he shadowed her from hallway to hallway.

The further in they went the stranger the scape became. Menoko couldn't say when she realized that the ceiling above her was no longer there, anymore that she could comprehend the dark plum above that seemed to be sky. The few 'life forms' they encountered were easily taken down with a burst of flame. Finally they came upon the opening of what appeared to be a series of connecting rooms, the first one had a broken window.

Menoko started towards it, only to be collared back by Knorth. "Don't. I sense plenty of movement in those rooms and that is not the way I came in," he whispered to her. "Well we better find the out soon. We've only got about 50 minutes, and I'm almost out of flame," she commented ruefully watching the hesitant flicker of the throwers' small flame. They got about five steps away from the windowed room when the flame died. Menoko swore softly as she abandoned the flame-thrower and pulled both guns.

Knorth regarded the abandoned weapon a moment before asking, "I take that it was powered by oil not magic?" He grinned wryly at her befuddled expression.

"Pro ,,yeah, oil will work," she answered dryly, recovering from her shock. She glanced at the weapons in her hands and added, "These are as close as I come to magic."

Another voice interrupted their exchange, "Oh my, what have we here?"

Menoko glanced back to windowed room to discover a pair of glowing eyes in the ever-darkening room. She stepped in front of Knorth and fired two shots dead center. The eyes closed as the room combusted. The room lit for a moment as plant, animal, and insect forms pulled back away from the fireball. Menoko stared, bedazzled, at the room until it fell back into darkness once again. What the hell? She gazed in awe of the .45.

A hand was on her arm, pulling her away. She looked down at it, absently. The hand was a network of white scars, as if burned in by barbwire. Menoko coming out of her daze observed in an unusually detached manner that she was running. She looked down the hallway and saw a white shifting mass of flesh chasing them. She fired off three shots with her 9mm, the last one hit, knocking it back.

"Got him," she informed, slowing her pace. "You may have hit it, but that changes nothing. Its already dead," Knorth breathed.

"What?" Menoko asked picking up her stride again. "That wasn't anything I've run into before."

"No, you probably wouldn't, that only happens here in this house to those who swear allegiance to it," he replied before shoving her through what appeared to be a solid wall.

Menoko stumbled out into daylight, and found herself momentarily blind. She heard Knorth behind her, and felt him shove her forward. A sickening crunch came from the spot she had been a moment before. She spun around guns in front of her, eyes steaming with tears from the sunlight.

She could make out headless twitching figure on the ground at her feet. A couple of blinks made it clear that Knorth had decapitated it with a sword. The neck wound on the body was already sealed with skin. She brought the .45 down on it and squeezed the trigger. Nothing happened. She stared numbly at the weapon backing away from the floundering body.

This can't be happening, Menoko thought. She holstered her 9mm and checked the clip on the .45, empty. Menoko dropped the clip and slapped in a new one, chiding herself from not having checked earlier. She glanced around grimly surveying the ruins around her. Not one piece of architecture was identifiable. She commented dryly, "Something tells me, we're not in Kansas anymore Toto."

Knorth pulled her well away from the obviously still living corpse. He called out, "Burr?"

"Torisen? ...Highlord, where are you?" A dark haired man popped out from some distant rubble. "Your alive!"

"Highlord?" Menoko questioned distastefully. "What kind of egotistically title is that?"

Knorth regarded her bemusedly. He informed her, "Mine regardless." Then to the man he asked, "Are the priests still alive and can they seal ...that?"

"Yes, my lord. We've been waiting, hoping you would be found, before they were forced to seal it," Burr chimed and disappeared to make it happen.

Several other people had approached them by this time. Menoko was warily eyeing what to her was the most notable of the lot, a hairy young man clad in furs. She begrudgingly holstered her weapons and turned back to see the portal into a dark hallway fade away. She looked back to the group assembled behind her, all dressed in unfamiliar clothes.

They eyed her suspiciously, clearly unsettled by her presence.

Menoko grinned the irony of the situation was not lost on her.